Since opening a few years ago on the waterfront of Fort Pond, the Surf Lodge has become the go-to spot in Montauk, beloved for its summer live-music series, its surf pro, and its laid-back attitude. This summer, the iconic hotel gets a friendly rival of sorts in Ruschmeyer’s, its more settled cousin perched across the water. Situated in a grove of trees lined along the shore, the caravanserai of cabins—dating back to 1952—have been renovated and restored to more than their former glory just in time for the long evenings of the coming season.
Ruschmeyer’s, which began its life as a summer camp, has been returned to its original purpose, with a variety of modern updates. Ben Pundole, a co-owner with Robert McKinley, explains that the idea was to create a “summer camp for grown-ups.” Standing under the shade in the vast central open area as workers raised the teepee behind him in preparation for this weekend’s soft opening, he explains in a magazine exclusive interview that the impetus for the property came from the changing lifestyles of his social circle. “I have lots of friends with kids,” he says, “and they still want to eat and drink well. I envision the kids running around under the trees throwing balsa-wood airplanes and blowing bubbles.”
To that end, both airplane kits and old-school bubble wands will be stocked in each of the nineteen rooms’ minibars, along with s’more packets that can be used on the grills that dot the lawn. Bocce ball and ping pong can be found on the sand-filled pool that will serve as a beer garden, while an activities manager will point guests down the right path for a short hike or a ride into town on a borrowed bicycle. Plans for a concert series, a guest theater troupe, and an artist-in-residence are in the works. “We want it to be activities-focused,” says Pundole.
The restaurant, with a menu by Ben Towill and Phil Winser, the duo behind Manhattan’s Fat Radish, retains its classic mid-century A-frame shape. The dishes work with the expected emphasis on local ingredients, with a focus on clams and mussels and other seafood fresh from the ocean. The centerpiece of the Electric Eel Disco, the bar space which takes its name from its original incarnation in the ’60s, is a giant disco ball surrounded by net-covered glass floats. The décor is filled with such whimsical seagoing touches, like an aquarium framed by a porthole and hammocks in each room, appropriate for a look that Pundole calls “nautical hippie.”
“The idea behind Ruschmeyer’s,” says Pundole, “is a reaction to how the recession changed our lifestyles. The bling generation disintegrated and people are looking for more authentic experiences.” The new property doesn’t lack for comfort and style in any means, but the emphasis is indeed on togetherness and community. The rooms are laid out to encourage use of the shared public spaces, including a casual breakfast nook off the restaurant for the use of guests only, and the entire experience comes steeped in a nostalgia for the ease of youth. Says Pundole, looking around with an air of satisfaction, “This is the kind of place I would want to go to.”
Ruschmeyer’s: 161 Second House Road, Montauk, New York, (631)-668-2877, www.visitruschmeyers.com